… neither party appealed

Rinzin Wangchuk

Bringing an end to a scam that dates back to 2019, seven people, including a woman, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five months to more than five years in connection with a vehicle loan scam last month.

Thimphu dzongkhag court’s criminal bench II found the seven defendants involved in forging documents, making fake bluebooks (registration book) and insurance agreement with intention to defraud and deceive the Bhutan National Bank (BNB) between 2017 and 2018.

Chimi Gyeltshen, 35, from Thimphu received the highest prison term, five years and one month, for availing more than Nu 31.782 million (M) loan from BNB to buy 15 Ashok Leyland dumper trucks and four excavators through fraudulent and deceptive practices. The bank released the loan to Chimi Gyeltshen and two other accomplices, Kinley Dorji and Dorji Dema.

He was charged for 19 counts each for tampering with documents, deceptive practices and solicitation.

Chimi Gyeltshen had applied for a loan of Nu 13.223M from BNB to purchase five trucks and two excavators. As per the loan norms and requirements of the bank,    he had to submit the details of the vehicles, machineries and owner’s name. The court’s ruling stated that since the defendant didn’t have the required documents, he resorted to tampering the documents to deceive the bank.

Chimi Gyeltshen also made fake documents for another 10 trucks that were booked in the name of Dorji Dema and another two excavators that he received from defendant Tenzin Jamtsho. He submitted 19 fake insurance documents and 19 bluebooks to BNB as if the trucks and excavators were bought, insured with the Bhutan Insurance Limited (BIL) and registered with the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA).

Chimi Gyeltshen was also found guilty of solicitation, as he knowingly solicited Thinley Wangchuk to issue him 16 bluebooks with the RSTA official seal. Later, Thinley Wangchuk, an assistant administrative officer, resigned from RSTA and joined Daina Private Ltd as the HR officer. It was when he was with Daina Private Ltd. that he signed the 16 bluebooks that he had given to Chimi Gyeltshen earlier.

The court sentenced Thinley Wangchuk, 37, from Sarpang to two years and 10 months in prison for 16 counts of forgery.

Sales manager of Ugyen Auto in Phuentsholing, Tek Bahadur Ghalley, received one year prison term for making fake invoices of five Bharat Benz trucks. These trucks were initially ordered by Kinley Dorji, who helped Chimi Gyeltshen to avail loan in his name. However, Tek Bahadur cancelled the order and the trucks were issued in the name of Diana Private Ltd. He again changed the invoices by providing the same details of the vehicles ordered by Kinley Dorji after knowing that police were investigating the case on March 23, 2019.

To buy two excavators from Yargyel Earth Mover, Chimi Gyeltshen availed a loan from BNB in Kinley Dorji’s name. BNB issued a cheque of Nu 4.173M directly to Yargyel Earth Mover. However, defendant Kinley Dorji, 35, from Lhuentse, had taken a Hot Mix Plant instead of excavators from the dealer. Hence, he was found guilty of aiding and abetting Chimi Gyeltshen in availing loan.

Although both police and Office of the Attorney General (OAG) refused to charge Dorji Dema, 40, from Trashiyangtse stating that there was no ground for prosecution, the court established that she was involved in deceptive practices. Both Dorji Dema and Kinley Dorji received 10 months prison term each.

Proprietor of TCD Traders, Tashi Choki Dorji, was also found guilty of offences for aiding, abetting and deceptive practice as he handed over Nu 16.9M, the BNB sanctioned loan to Dorji Dema, to Chimi Gyeltshen without consulting bank officials.

Proprietor of Yargyel Earth Mover, Tenzin Jamtsho, was convicted for replacing a hot mix plant for the excavators as ordered initially. Both Tenzin Jamtsho and Tashi Choki Dorji were given five months prison term each for helping Chimi Gyeltshen to avail loan.

All defendants can pay thrimthue in lieu of imprisonment as the charges were considered misdemeanor. The court ordered Chimi Gyeltshen to pay the outstanding loan of Nu 31.782M within a year from the day of the judgment, August 19.

According to a court official, none of the parties – defendants or prosecutors, approached the court to submit their appeal letter to the High Court. The appeal period ended on September 5.

Case background

The case surfaced in early 2019 after BNB complained of loan overdue and fraudulent practices. The Thimphu police then investigated and unearthed the modus operandi.

Three defendants applied for a loan to buy trucks and excavators.  The bank released a loan of about Nu 40M. The trucks and machines were bought, insured with the BIL and registered with the RSTA.  But this was only on paper.

Police also found out that the insurance papers were fake and made in Jaigaon. The vehicles were never registered with the BIL. They cross-checked with BIL and RSTA and found out that the documents were forged.